As the daughter of a professor-cum-teacher, Sapna Thapa found herself fascinated watching her father teach. “I would imitate and pretend to be a teacher myself,” she shares, “We had a slate board that my dad had brought for maths and I used to play with it all day long. I also made everyone attend my pretend classes.” Her mother was a history teacher as well so she had a front-seat view of the burning passion behind teaching. “This passion left me hungry for knowledge which eventually led me to teaching because for me teaching is all about learning.”
“Life begins at conception,” she elaborates, ”We tend to believe that a child only starts to learn after being born but the brain develops much earlier than we think. The body starts preparation to house the brain as soon as the fetus’s development begins.” As we cradle these delicate newborns, we might be inclined to only look at all the knowledge we can impart on this individual without considering the newborn’s tremendous capacity. Thapa contends,
“Children are born geniuses but sometimes we destroy that genius-ness because we only want them to do and learn.”
Thapa firmly believes that focusing on early-age development is a must. And if we don’t, we are losing valuable time that we will not get back. “Think of all the things that a child learns during the ages of 0-8,” she urges, “They are little geniuses that babble, that assess and analyze. If the brain develops first in the womb then at least 80-90% of the brain is already developed by the age of 6. The rest is entirely up to you.”
This is why it is the prime time for them to experience a wide range of things. Not simply sitting in front of a screen but actually stimulating all five senses. “The brain builds a schema,” Thapa explains, “This is where they are forming separate files for everything. The information from all five senses is stored and later analyzed here. Early on they will only remember one element like color or smell but later on, these files become so complex that the children are able to recognize and differentiate animals. This is the result of our natural evolution.”
Thapa believes that after this period children embark on a lifelong journey of refinement. For instance, one has already learned how to hold a pen and write. Then in later years, all one really does is refine the handwriting.
“To learn to swim, you need to have the experience of at least touching the water.”
So if early-age development is truly this important, what are parents missing? “Parents aren’t intentionally doing things wrong,” Thapa clarifies, “Sometimes they simply get carried away by the pressure of what they can do best for their children. They can’t help it, they simply want to buy their children a whole shelf of toys if they can.”
Parents have the immense responsibility of deciding the best path for their children. They are torn between new methods and technologies being used around the globe as well as our roots and our culture. When you want to give somebody all the best things in life, many parents can believe that materialistic things are the way to go.
Thapa also shines a light on the importance of honesty and negotiation through self-reflection. “When your kid is fighting, you don’t just tell them not to fight but you help them understand why. You need to teach them the skill to resolve things.” Children will still learn at their own pace, but an enriched environment needs to be set so that they have the resources to develop in the right direction.
“A child will take his own course. You can force a child to use a walker but until and unless the walking muscles develop fully, the child won’t learn to walk on his own.”
The abundance of knowledge is making parents hover and look over everything that their child does. Thapa agrees, “It comes from a place of love and wanting to provide everything despite the lack of any real proof that it is working.”
As parting advice, Thapa reiterates the importance of giving a child the opportunity to explore their own passions. “Parenting has become so competitive. Back in our days, the knowledge was simply passed on from our parents and relatives but now the increase in information has also increased the self-doubt for many parents.” The only thing to remember is a child needs to be able to discover him/herself. And whenever in doubt,
“Do what is good for your child and not only for you.”